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When we set foot in our first Haitian school, we were shocked and dismayed.  We saw dirt floors and a broken chalkboard leaning against the wall. There was a single five-gallon bucket transformed into a water fountain with only one cup.   The Kindergarten teacher had a either a switch or a belt in hand and didn’t hesitate to use it. For punishment, some students were kneeling on the hard floor for an hour at a time.

We have visited other schools in different parts of Haiti and although we’ve seen some differences, we come away feeling sorely discouraged by the teachers’ realities.  Below are a few more of our observations:

  • Many times teachers don’t show up for class, but those that do are formally dressed;  the male teachers are wearing a coat and tie in the heat of the day and the female teachers are wearing a skirt, suit jacket and dress shoes.
  • When teachers do not show up, students are required to stay in a small classroom for 2 hours without leaving or getting into trouble.
  • It is not uncommon for a teacher to spend the first hour of a two hour class writing multiple exercises on the board because students do not have books.
  • Only about half of the students copy the exercises from the board.  Those who do not copy the exercises may not have paper or pen.
  • While English teachers can read the exercises (oftentimes incomprehensible and unrelatable to the students) from the board out loud, they struggle to speak English spontaneously and find it very difficult to correctly ask a question.
  • English teachers spend a great deal of time speaking Creole in class instead of English.
  • English teachers spend the majority of the time using grammar language (present progressive, past participle, future tense, etc…)
  • Teachers depend on rote memorization and repetition.

We had to admit to ourselves just how lucky we are in the United States.

Donna Tatum-Johns

My passion is twofold: training teachers using comprehensible-input methods and strategies as well as teaching French using these same techniques. CI helps language classes come alive and allows students to enjoy acquiring a second language more naturally.

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